by Sarah Corbett
The Mamuli hails from the island of Sumba in Eastern Indonesia, and is considered to be the most important of their golden ritual gift items.
Originally worn by women and also sometimes by men in artificially elongated ear lobes.
Mamuli are a fertility amulet and a part of the exchange of gifts prior to a wedding, and form a part of a families Adat treasures, which are only displayed on special occasions.
The stylised form of the Mamuli represents the female form, and sculptures which exist from the region clearly demonstrate this.
The Mamuli are further categorised as male or female depending on a set of secondary characteristics namely the width of flare and additional adornment at the base as masculine or feminine. The wider and more ornate pieces often featuring tiny animal or human forms are of the masculine category.
The more elaborate versions of the type are favoured in the East of the Sumba island.
The Sumbanese believe that precious metals have celestial origins, silver from the moon and stars and gold from the sun.
Golden items are associated with divine blessings and favour.
Sumbanese religious specialists use Mamuli to assist in contact with ancestors and spirits. Some examples of Mamuli are considered too powerful to be displayed. The belief that such a Mamuli could harm or even kill an unsuspecting onlooker, or even cause natural disasters is common.
The practice of ear lobe elongation is no longer prevalent and these beautiful pieces are more likely to be seen used as pendants, or sewn to clothing.